Breaking Down Jose Altuve’s ALDS Struggles

© Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Division Series between the Astros and Mariners most effective went 3 video games, however it wasn’t quick on drama. Overlooked amid the additional innings insanity and the overdue sport heroics was once the efficiency of Jose Altuve. That could be for the most productive, because the Astros 2d baseman struggled mightily:

Jose Altuve Batting – 2022

Season BB% Ok% AVG OBP SLG wRC+
Regular Season 5.9% 35.3% .300 .387 .533 164
ALDS 10.9% 14.4% .000 .059 .000 -88

Going 0-for-16 with six strikeouts is, to make use of a technical time period, actual unhealthy. What was once occurring? Let’s get started with Altuve’s plate self-discipline:

Jose Altuve Plate Discipline – 2022

Season O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone%
Regular Season 31.4% 65.0% 43.8% 76.8% 91.0% 84.6% 44.2%
ALDS 56.2% 84.0% 68.4% 66.7% 81.0% 74.4% 43.9%

Oh no. Altuve swung at completely the whole lot. Altuve has elite touch abilities, so even if his touch proportion dropped by way of 10 issues around the board, his numbers had been nonetheless affordable. As it seems, that wasn’t a excellent factor:

Jose Altuve Batted Ball – 2022

Season LD% GB% FB% IFFB% EV LA wOBA xwOBA
Regular Season 20.4% 41.0% 38.7% 12.0% 85.9 16.1 .397 .354
ALDS 0.0% 30.0% 70.0% 50.0% 79.4 40.8 .041 .099

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Looks like I used my “Oh no” too quickly. Altuve didn’t hit a unmarried line force towards the Mariners. He most effective hit two balls out of the infield and his go out speed cratered. Half of his balls in play had been popups. He additionally fouled off a 3rd of the pitches he noticed, just about double his season moderate.

Before we panic an excessive amount of, let’s needless to say we’re speaking about 3 video games (although certainly one of them went 18 innings, so it’s essential argue it’s extra like 4). Altuve had simply 17 plate appearances and 10 balls in play. It may also be useful to test whether or not Altuve has struggled like this sooner than. To the three-game rolling averages!

Twice this 12 months, Altuve has had three-game stretches of the hyper-aggression he displayed within the ALDS. In truth, between July 26-28, he noticed 10 moves and swung at they all. Not coincidentally, his wRC+ over that length was once -46:

I received’t make you take a look at every other graph, however Altuve has additionally had a pair three-game popup-paloozas this season. It turns out protected to mention that whilst the closing 3 video games had been very unhealthy, they weren’t essentially exceptional. He’s nonetheless Jose Altuve, and the Astros don’t seem to be about to take a seat him all through the ALCS.

Something else came about all through the sequence towards Seattle. The Mariners had been concentrated on a selected spot towards Altuve. On the left is how the league pitched him this 12 months, within the center is how the Mariners pitched him all through the common season, and at the proper is how the Mariners pitched him within the ALDS. (Since Altuve most effective confronted righties within the ALDS, those charts exclude lefties.):

During the common season, 44.2% of the pitches Altuve noticed had been within the strike zone, third-lowest within the league. That’s no longer as a result of he has a top chase charge (at 28.7%, he’s center of the pack), however as a result of pitchers are fearful of his .969 OPS within the zone. Aside from that, there’s not anything peculiar about the best way groups pitched him this 12 months. They threw laborious stuff in and comfortable stuff away. When they had been on the lookout for chases, they threw four-seamers up, changeups down, and breaking balls low and away. When they got here into the zone, they attacked him center away. During the common season, the Mariners in large part adopted that script as smartly. However, they obviously believed they may beat Altuve inside of. In the ALDS, they went all in on that technique, hammering Altuve inside of and stale the plate and in large part ignoring the world the place the remainder of the league (they usually themselves) had concentrated their stuff all through the common season.

This morning, R.J. Anderson posited that the Mariners, “wanted to test Altuve’s ability to get his barrel around to hard stuff in and around his hands — and he didn’t pass.” Anderson’s article is indisputably price studying, however Altuve had a wOBA of .405 on pitches 97 mph and better this 12 months, so I’m just a little skeptical that he’s getting beat with speed impulsively. Here are the pitches Altuve noticed, damaged down by way of consequence. Take a take a look at the purple dots that point out swings and misses:

Altuve did swing and leave out at 3 four-seam fastballs up and in, however they had been all chase pitches when he was once in the back of within the rely, same old towards any batter. The most effective whiff that’s in fact at the inside of edge is a changeup on the backside of the zone from Luis Castillo. Most of the dots at the inside of edge are inexperienced, which means Altuve fouled them off. He continuously yanked his fouls the 1/3 base facet like this one:

The crimson dots at the inside of edge are balls in play. Altuve was once indisputably in the back of on a few of them, stoning up badly, however he additionally pulled some for grounders and a fly out. Maybe he was once forward of such a lot of pitches as a result of he was once dishonest on fastballs, however it appeared to me much less like Altuve couldn’t meet up with the interior fastball and extra like his timing was once simply simple off.

The different issue to imagine here’s that the Mariners modified their pitch combine towards Altuve. The common season is at the left, and the ALDS is at the proper:

During the common season, they threw maximum in their sinkers within the center or middle-in. The pitches at the inside of edge had been in large part four-seamers. In the ALDS, then again, they switched to sinkers as they pounded Altuve inside of. Some of the exchange comes from the addition of sinkerballer Castillo, however George Kirby indisputably went out of his approach to throw sinkers to Altuve. During Game 3, he threw his four-seamer and his sinker 43 occasions every, however towards Altuve he threw 8 sinkers and simply two four-seamers. Breaking down Altuve’s efficiency towards explicit pitch varieties provides some rationalization:

Jose Altuve Pitch Types – 2022

Pitch Number Percentage wOBA xwOBA Exit Velocity ISO
Knuckle Curve 50 2.2 .717 .348 85.4 .333
Four-Seam 682 29.5 .470 .427 89.3 .368
Sinker 329 14.3 .451 .389 81.9 .298
Changeup 276 12 .386 .359 85.8 .232
Slider 586 25.4 .315 .276 83.3 .115
Curveball 163 7.1 .294 .276 79.9 .105
Cutter 189 8.2 .283 .305 81.7 .079
Split-Finger 33 1.4 .196 .188 76.9 .000
Total 2,308 100 .397 .354 84.8 .233

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

It’s under no circumstances a nasty thought to throw fewer four-seamers to Jose Altuve, as he completely destroys them. It’s conceivable that he’s been fortunate on sinkers, given the bigger distinction between his wOBA and xwOBA. Regardless, his go out speed is significantly decrease as opposed to the pitch. If your purpose is to stay Altuve within the ballpark, it might make sense to change four-seamers for sinkers.

It’s price noting that going after Altuve at the inside of edge isn’t precisely a brand new manner. I went during the warmth maps of the sinkers that he noticed every season. Most seemed like this 12 months’s, which is to mention a large blob of purple in the course of the zone, with possibly a tendril of purple sneaking towards the interior edge. Take a take a look at the warmth map for 2020:

Teams had been indisputably concentrated on the interior part with their sinkers, similar to the Mariners did within the ALDS. We will have to take this with a grain of salt, because the season was once most effective 60 video games lengthy, however Altuve post a 74 wRC+ in 2020, the worst of his occupation. It’s laborious to understand whether or not there’s causality right here. It moves me as not likely that the league found out how you can pitch Altuve in 2020 after which jointly forgot about it.

I went on the lookout for pitches in that spot, up and at the inside of edge. If you’re looking out on Baseball Savant, it’s Attack Zone 11, which is one way or the other no longer the identify of a Steven Seagal film:

It’s no longer a nasty thought to pitch Altuve there. He’s had a .310 wOBA towards pitches there since 2015, higher than the league wOBA of .283 in that spot, however nonetheless method down from his .372 wOBA towards all pitches. Here are Altuve’s numbers in that zone, damaged down by way of 12 months:

Jose Altuve in Attack Zone 11

Year Pitches wOBA xwOBA
2022 60 .177 .153
2021 55 .386 .307
2020 24 .100 .189
2019 39 .285 .264
2018 52 .155 .154
2017 46 .350 .360
2016 47 .634 .528
2015 45 .407 .282

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Keep in thoughts that those are small samples, particularly since this spot is off the plate. Altuve has most effective swung at 201 of those pitches since 2015, and he’s most effective put 98 of them in play. That stated, he did fare worse towards them this 12 months, simply as he did in 2020.

It might be that the Mariners made up our minds to take a look at the tactic that appeared to paintings towards Altuve when he was once at his worst. Maybe they only made up our minds no longer get beat throwing four-seamers to a man who crushes them. I feel it’s much more likely that they discovered early on that he’d misplaced his plate self-discipline and made up our minds to not throw the rest within the zone. In Game 1, Logan Gilbert didn’t attempt to come inside of till Altuve’s 1/3 plate look. The one inside of pitch he threw in Altuve’s first two plate appearances was once a leave out on a pitch the place catcher Cal Raleigh was once arrange outdoor.

It’s no longer a good suggestion to overreact to a few video games. The excellent information for the Astros is that, as we simply noticed, they’re excellent sufficient to win although Altuve doesn’t produce in any respect. I’m certain they spotted how the Mariners had been pitching them and I’m certain Altuve is operating on getting his timing again. If had been the Yankees, I’d completely apply the blueprint that the Mariners laid out, however I wouldn’t be stunned if it not works.

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